My process of de-converting from Christianity in one word: gradual. The earliest hairline doubts cracked through around puberty. I tried re-evaluating what I believed and living with the tension of beliefs that harmed more than they helped. Each patch seemed to work for a few years. And then one day I’d come back and find only the gummy residue of old hope.
Some former Christians who have become non-theists approach their de-conversions with glee. They’ll switch from evangelizing about Jesus to proselytizing the tongue-in-cheek virtues of the flying spaghetti monster. There’s nothing wrong with doing this, of course. It just isn’t how I reacted when I finally admitted to living in the religious grey zone.
Beyond the relief that follows honesty after a long internal battle came a question:
I’d grown up with the belief that faith brings meaning to one’s life and that people couldn’t be genuinely good without that external compass. It was something reinforced so often and with such authority that I didn’t even recognize it as an assumption until this point.
What was I going to do without it? Would I suddenly start drinking every weekend, lying, stealing, cheating, fighting, ignoring those who asked for help?
This may make those of you who didn’t grow up in this sort of religious environment chuckle…but they were things that passed through my mind. Over and over again as a child I heard testimonies from people who said that God was the only thing in this world standing between them and all of the horrible things they wanted to do.
What if I had just stepped away from this same protection?
It wasn’t something I worried about forever but it was in the back of my mind as I slowly inched into a new worldview.
What happens after faith? Most of the time it’s the same sort of stuff that mattered before in the smallest and biggest ways: the love of family and friends. a crisp new book from the library. a long hike in the woods.
I’m as (un)likely to harm or help someone else as I was in my Christian years. Worrying about my purpose in life isn’t something I do as much these days. If there is one I’ll figure it out when the time is right. In the meantime I’ll love and be loved and that isn’t a bad place to be.
Ex/non-theists and spiritual seekers, what is your “now what”? How do the pieces of your lives come together?